Food ladies we have known


Here we have the proprietress of a hot pot restaurant in Shanghai.  There wasn’t any English in the place, or any photos; after we sat down at a table, she handed us a piece of paper with a list of ingredients on it, and a pencil.  “No problem!” we thought.  “This is what it’s all about!  Adventure!  Also, this lady hovering nervously over us right now seems real nice.”

And I mean, she was real nice, but she had this baffling mix of behavior: On the one hand, she was constantly laughing and smiling and clearly desperate to help us (to not lose face?); on the other, she absolutely refused to help us in any real way.  Ryan has some Chinese language apps on his iPhone, so first he called up “We’ll take your recommendation.”  She read this, laughed,wrung her hands anxiously, said some things to us, and gestured vaguely to the menu.  We pointed to another table and tried “We’ll have what they’re having;” she looked at them, looked back at us, laughed and handed us the pencil.  All out of tricks, we smiled and shrugged and handed her the pencil back.  In a frenzy of (insert whatever emotion that our cultural/language barriers were keeping us from understanding), she ran to the back of the restaurant to find her son, who then spent a solid five minutes trying and failing to translate the menu for us.  The poor guy was even more nervous than his mother; sweat poured off his face as he sat hunched over his cell phone, looking things up in his dictionary, muttering things like “These…vegetables.  And these…meat?”

The spectacle didn’t end until we actually got up, retrieved another table’s receipt, and copied their order onto our sheet.  When we handed it to the lady she was visibly relieved.

In the end I have to say her hands-off tactic was a good one, because we had no one to blame but ourselves when we got our dinner: A soup of pickled kale, chicken feet, and some kind of goddamned melon.

(This is either Ryan’s “It’s not so bad!” face or his “You win this round, hot pot lady” face)


THIS woman, though.  What a gangsta.

You want some dumplings?


Yeah you do.  Go sit over there.

(sitting down, continuing to smile)

Here’s your dumplings.  Do you want some beer?

(smiles faltering)

Beer.  Beer (points to a pony keg).  Do you want some beer?

OH BEER! (nodding enthusiastically)

Haha.  Here you go.




And then she brought us some deep-fried croquette things, on the house.  I will love you until I die, dumpling lady.


We had no meaningful interactions with this lady. I just wanted to show you that we ate stinky tofu (hot tip: it only smells like garbage!)(or maybe anything tastes good smothered in chiles and cilantro?).



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2 responses to “Food ladies we have known

  1. Kelsey

    How are chicken feet??? Chicken paws, right? That’s on my list of things to try.

  2. Steve Kelly

    Ah. Stinky tofu. I should probably read from older to newer.

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